Affiliate links within this post may be commissionable.
While sick last week, I marathoned my way through the first season of the anime version of Nodame Cantabile, a cute shoujo romantic-comedy anime about a young man (Chiaki) who wants to become a conductor. He encounters a girl who plays the piano with so much energy that it sounds as if she is singing. Her nickname is Nodame. Hence we get the title, Nodame Cantabile. A Cantabile is a musical term to describe instrumental music which emulates the sound of human voices singing. It literally means “to play (an instrument) as if singing”.
Interestingly, enough, the characters and events in this anime are based partially (although I’m sure exaggerated to a degree) on real life acquaintances and friends of the Mangaka who wrote the manga on which the anime is based.
My favorite thing about the anime however, is definitely the music. If you love classical music, you’ll enjoy this. Not only that, but the opening and ending themes are so damn catchy. I think the ending theme used in the first half of the series is maybe my favorite ending theme from any anime of all time.
Title: Nodama Cantabile
Length: 24 Episodes in season 1, 11 episodes in season 2, 11 episodes in season 3 for a total of 46 episodes.
Publisher: J.C. Staff
Release Date: January 2007 – 2010
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Slice of Life, Musical, Shoujo
Story: 8/10 I think the story, at times, suffers from some pacing issues. It can really drag and feel a bit dry even despite an abundance of comedic moments, and since it is a much longer series than similar anime (such as Your Lie in April), it can feel like a chore at times to make it through the whole thing. However, with that out of the way, I will say, that the story also is very unique. I’ve never seen an anime about someone who wants to become a conductor before. I also think it’s sweet and cute in a way (though Chiaki’s Tsundere personality definitely will not appeal to everyone). The end of season 1 is one of the most memorable scenes I have ever seen – Not to spoil anything, but when you get to the end, the scene with the taxi and cellphones. I really thought it was a very heart moving moment. You’ll see what I mean <3.
Characters: 6/10 Although Chiaki is your typical Tsundere style character, the relationship dynamics play out almost in the same way as Wolf Girl and Black Prince (Which I reviewed over here) and I enjoyed that sort of “pet and master” like dynamic. Some people may take offense to these sorts of anime as it puts the main female lead in an extremely submissive “puppydog” role. But I’m no feminist, so it doesn’t really bother me. I think it’s cute that both of the girls need to be taken care of and follow their crush around like a dog. lol. Over the course of Nodame Cantabile, Chiaki does warm up to her, and we see that he tries to rationalize and deny his love for Nodame throughout most of the first season. He is hard on her at times because he wants to encourage her in his own way, to do better, and to follow her dreams. The supporting cast is really very good too – some of them are very funny such as the timpani player, and others are interesting from a backstory standpoint such as Chiaki’s ex. I think more could have been done to create more tension and relationship drama (disclaimer I’m only one season in with 2 more seasons to go). Such as Chiaki’s ex girlfriend not wanting to give him up; or the concert master’s dependency on Nodame, (however he develops a relationship later on with another member of the orchestra who is able to become a cute little side couple). There was a brief rival also that was in love with Nodame in the later half of season 1, but they resolve that conflict quickly within 2-3 episodes also. Well deep down we all know she belongs with Chiaki anyways; but I think it would have been interesting to ramp up the tension a bit more. Some of the episodes feel pretty “dry” because they focus on realistic things like music competitions and rehearsals and the introduction of some more drama maybe would have helped spice things up a bit; however, the tensions and conflicts are often too quickly resolved, and we’re back to just Nodame chasing Chiaki again. Character development is good, especially for Chiaki, we see him go from being a very strict conductor and music teacher, to becoming able to appreciate the unique sound of each member of his orchestra, and to respect their differences. We also see him become more honest about his feelings towards Nodame. I expect that Nodame will grow more independent in later seasons in order to grow as a character and pursue her own dreams without such dependency on Chiaki; but once again I’ve only seen season 1 so can only grade my review on my own experiences thus far.
Music: 5/5 Possibly the best music score ever in an anime. I thought about grading this on a 10 point scale, but to keep it in line with other reviews I’ve done on the site for anime, I’ve kept it a 5 scale. I think, in a series about music, that the music really plays a big role. They used real symphonies to record the classical music, and the opening and ending themes are super catchy and among my favorites from any anime I’ve seen.
Voice Acting: (Disclaimer: I was sick all week (to the point I couldn’t even raise my head off the pillow) and so I watched the first season as a dub. I will eventually come back and give a score for Voice Acting when I watch season 2 and 3 which I will watch as subbed, as it’s intended to be. I won’t even bother grading the Voice Acting of the dub at this point, because dubs suck lol. Seriously, all the voices sounded the same, and why do they make everyone sound like an Alvin the Chipmunk reject? (especially the girls).)
Artwork: 3/5 For being a relatively newer anime (mid-late 2000s) with the most recent season only 5 years old, I expected more from this anime graphically speaking. I think the animation work is really well done, as it shows in detail, finger work, playing various instruments, the body (and hair flowing) movements in time with the music, and great facial expressions as well. But just the “quality” or “design” of the artwork itself, it feels very “dated”. I was shocked when researching this post to see this series is only 5 years old. It feels like an “early 90s” anime, in terms of character designs, backgrounds, colors, lineart, techniques, etc used.
Overall: 22/30 73% “Good Anime for Girls”
If You Liked Nodame Cantabile, You’ll Also Like: Nana, Fullmoon Wo Sagashite, Beck Mongolian Chop Squad, Pop Chance Session, White Album, Your Lie in April, and Love Live School Idol Festival